Family films to see at the cinema
Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family PLUS trailers for upcoming films! Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
New Releases out now
Frozen II (U)
Let’s say this from the start, neither the film nor the songs are a patch on the original. Show Yourself seems destined to be favourite, but it’s no Let it Go. Set three years on, Elsa (Idina Menzel) now rules Arendell, goofy snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) is all permafrost and Kristoff is trying to summon up the courage to propose to Anna (Kristen Bell). Not that you need reminding, but Elsa’s the one with the magic ice powers. But why her? That’s the engine that drives the narrative, the film opening with a childhood flashback as their parents, King Agnarr (Alfred Molina) and Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood), tell them a bedtime story about an enchanted forest to the north, ruled by the spirits of earth, air, fire and water and how, 34 years earlier, their grandfather sought to forge a pact with the indigenous Northuldra only for hostilities to inexplicably break out leading the forest and all within to be imprisoned by a wall of mist, but not before the young Agnarr was rescued by a girl from the tribe.
Now, the grown Elsa is hearing a voice calling her, so she determines to set off, as the song puts it, Into The Unknown, accompanied by Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven the reindeer. The revelations, however, are unlikely to come as much of a surprise to any alert six year old, while learning the truth of what happened, albeit featuring a cute flaming salamander and a water horse, is something of a plodding affair, punctuated by a running gag about Kristoff’s failed attempts to propose.
The first film’s theme of finding yourself gets reheated, this time in the context of growing up and change, but it’s not until the final act that the thing really catches fire. The animation is, of course, first rate, the characters remain likeable and the mix of humour, sentiment and action is about right, but, when, at the end, someone asks Elsa if they’re going to lead them into any more dangers, you kind of hope Disney means it when she says no. 103 mins
LGWTC Guidance: It’s been cool, but the thaw is setting in.
The Addams Family (PG)
Although the target kiddie audience is highly unlikely to be aware of the 90s live action films let alone the original 60s TV series, this animated reboot helpfully opens with a quick summary of how vampiric Morticia (Charlize Theron) and rotund Gomez (Oscar Isaac) got wed, but then had to flee the torch-bearing villagers in their Eastern European homeland and, accompanied by Thing, the disembodied hand, fetched up in a deserted gothic mansion on a hilltop in New Jersey, where they live with piano-playing Frankenstein monster-like Lurch as their butler and their two kids, the oval-faced cadaverous-looking Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and the pudgy explosives-obsessed Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard).
Cut to the present and as Pugsley is being reluctantly put through his paces for the family tradition ritual sword-juggling coming of age dance, grandma (Bette Midler) and Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) have arrived early to help with the preparations. However, the family’s thrown into disarray when Wednesday meets Parker (Elsie Fisher), the daughter of big-haired home makeover TV reality show presenter Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) and decides she wants to explore life beyond the mansion’s gates. And even go to school (cue amusing frog dissection class). Inevitably leading an emerging rebellious streak (she takes to wearing tacky accessories and girlie dresses as opposed to her usual black) just as she influences Parker to turn goth, each falling out with their mothers as a result.
All of which comes as the mansion’s revealed to the folk below in Assimilation, the town Margaux is at attempting to create as her piece de resistance and sell off all the properties, the rest of the family and their guests attempt to integrate and Margaux decides to make the Addams house her ultimate fixer-upper and be rid of the family.
Not that it will mean anything to the kids, but the computer-generated characters are extremely close to the Charles Addams’ cartoons while the theme of being true to yourself rather than conforming is a staple for these sorts of films. Unfortunately, its tone is more Hotel Transylvania than the subversive creepy humour of the original and, while some of the lines and throwaways amuse and the voice cast do their best with the material, aside from a suitably over-the-top Janney, they feel rather muted and the end result is all a bit bland. 105mins
LGWTC Guidance: Unlike Thing’s fingers, it doesn’t really have the snap.
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil (PG)
The first film took the story of Sleeping Beauty and the evil fairy Maleficent well beyond the fairy tale, telling events from the latter’s perspective and giving her a moral makeover in her love for the princess Aurora, returning the Moors to their magical glory and making her god-daughter Queen.
Set five years on, this takes it even further as, not best pleased to learn from Aurora (a rosy-cheeked Elle Fanning) that she has accepted the marriage proposal by Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) and, invited to dinner at the palace by King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) throws a stupendous tantrum when the latter says Aurora will now have a real mother, seemingly leaving the King comatose in a curse. Flying off, she is, however, shot down using missiles made of iron, to which the fey are apparently vulnerable along with a deadly toxin made from flowers that bloom on the graves of dead fairies.
All this, as the film is quick to explain, has to do with the scheming Ingrith’s plan to start a war between the humans and the fey who live in the Moors so she can destroy their kind forever. What she hadn’t counted on was Maleficent being saved by an origin story involving her hitherto unmentioned kin of fellow Dark Fey, among them peace wanting Connall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the more belligerent Borra (Ed Skein), setting the stage for Ingrith’s luring them and the inhabitants of the Moors to the palace for the wedding – and their destruction.
While enchanting in its depiction of the assorted fairy folk and other magical beings, given some truly dark moments and theme of genocide, this is likely to give younger audiences sleepless nights, not to mention having them confused over its revisionist account of the infamous spinning wheel.
Sporting horned headpiece, black wings and chiselled cheekbones, the formidable Jolie plays it to the max while, in a showdown between competing alpha mothers-in-law that climaxes in a humdinger of a battle, Pfeiffer delivers icy ruthlessness with aplomb, largely leaving the rest of the cast in their shadow with only Sam Riley as Maleficent’s shape-shifting raven Diaval not being eclipsed.
It’s all something of an overly busy, overlong if visually dazzling mess in search of a coherent story, but there’s no denying there are still many hugely entertaining pleasures here. And those cheekbones. 118 mins
LGWTC Guidance: It’s like Game of Thrones for the kids.
Jumanji: The Next Level (12A)
Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Kevin Hart return for the third sequel, except this time they’re not the avatars of the same players. Unknown to his friends, Spencer kept the pieces of the Jumanji video game and repaired the system in the basement of his grandfather’s house. When Bethany, Fridge and Martha turn up and find him missing and the game running, they decide to go back in and save him. However, before they can all select their avatars, Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his friend Milo (Danny Glover) inadvertently get sucked into the game in their place. Now, with Jumanji guide Nigel is offering them a new quest the two teens have to help their senior citizen partners get used to their in-game avatars, find Spencer and escape. With Awkafina joining the cast, expect more of the self send-ups, action and welcome silliness. 114 mins
Thursday, 13th December
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12A)
Directed by JJ Abrams, the ninth and final Star Wars movie is set a year on from The Last Jedi and the remnants of the Resistance must face the First Order once again as well as dealing with the past and their inner turmoil as the ancient conflict between the Jedi and the Sith reaches its climax. As well as Luke, Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe, C-3PO, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and (thanks to archive footage of the late Carrie Fisher) Princess Leia, the cast of characters sees the return of the Emperor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious, who seemingly died in the Revenge of the Jedi and, for the first time since 1983’s Return of the Jedi, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian. 155 mins
Thursday 19th December
Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.